Staff editorial: Abstain from abstinence-only

Schools should expand standards to include abstinence-plus guidelines

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Staff editorial: Abstain from abstinence-only

JagWire staff

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Despite all Mill Valley students being required to take a semester-long Health class, only 49 percent of students in a survey of 185 believe sexuality education in health class is sufficient. Inconsistent sexuality education standards throughout Kansas have led to some students receiving an inadequate abstinence-only education in their Health classes, leaving those students uneducated and unprepared.

This shortcoming is not the school’s fault. The state of Kansas requires that a sexuality unit be taught, but allows individual Health teachers to choose their curriculum as long as they meet a minimum baseline of teaching abstinence-focused sexuality education. This allows teachers to teach an abstinence-only curriculum without focusing on any measures of contraception or birth control. While this is permitted by Kansas, this policy is unrealistic and leaves huge gaps in students’ knowledge of sexual health.

Legally, anyone in Kansas who is age 16 or older can consent to having sex. Additionally, in the state of Kansas, anyone of any age can receive birth control without needing parental permission. However, due to inconsistent policy and curriculum, the sexual education that students receive at that age may not actually include a comprehensive lesson about birth control or practicing safe sex.

Abstinence-only sexual education leads to students being uninformed about their own sexuality. Many students lacking an adequate sexuality education from their schools turn to their peers or the Internet for information. However, information from other students or the Internet can be inaccurate or embellished. If curriculum is limited to abstinence-only, there is no guarantee that students are achieving a comprehensive understanding of how to keep themselves safe from STIs or other risks.

Some parents and teachers may believe that students having a comprehensive knowledge of safe sex and contraceptives could lead to an increased amount of students having premarital sex, but that is not the case. According to Advocates for Youth, a non-profit dedicated to promoting sexual health among teenagers, comprehensive sexuality education does not lead to more sex among teens, and also leads to fewer STIs among teens.

Overwhelmingly, comprehensive sexuality education is supported by both statistics and public opinion. Another Advocates for Youth survey revealed that 94 percent of adults believe that sexuality education should teach about contraception, and 89 percent believe that sexuality education should focus on avoiding STIs and unavoided pregnancies.

As the Health education standards come under review by the state Board of Education, revising said standards to include a comprehensive curriculum is a must. Abstinence-only programs fail to address realistic issues. While we believe that such programs were developed with the best of intentions, they are inadequate in educating students. Better state standards that mandate a more comprehensive sexuality education program would be both more popular and more effective.

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